How to Begin Interpretative Reading the Montessori Way

Reading is the process of decoding each word into its component symbols and sounds, then putting together those sounds and figuring the meaning and the context to that word, then finally forming a new idea into the child’s mind.

The goal of all reading activities in Montessori is for the reader to not only understand the words but to have full comprehension of the text being read

Reading is not just a technical skill of identifying letters and sounds that together form the words (i.e., mechanical reading), but it is understanding the complete message of the written words in its proper context (i.e., interpretative reading).

Dr. Montessori discovered that with proper indirect preparation, writing occurs before reading; and reading generally happens about six months after writing.

Previously, we have shared about the first 3 stages towards learning how to read and write according to Muriel Dwyer: Phonemic Awareness, Letter Recognition, and Word Formation Using Movable Alphabets.

When is the Child Ready to Read?

is your child ready to read, signs to first reading, reading readiness

According to the Keys of the World (2012), the signs that the child is ready to begin the first reading activity are as follows:

  • Independent work with the movable alphabet
  • On the last stage of the sound game (with sandpaper letters)
  • Starting to read the movable alphabet – either own or another’s work
  • Parents state that the child has started trying to read cartons, signs, etc.
  • Age: 4.5 years old for most children, though some will be ready much sooner and others not until later

Phonetic reading is the first level (out of five) towards interpretative reading.

How to Begin Phonetic Reading

1. Using Phonetic Language Objects

In this level, the child is given the first Phonetic Object Box which contains small objects (or pictures of objects) whose names are spelled phonetically (6-8 at a time and changed frequently), a container with the prepared labels of each object (for independent work), blank cards for you to write on, and pencil.

  1. The adult invites the child to choose an object and asks the child for its name. (Note: in case the child doesn’t know, remove the object and teach it some other time, then choose another.)
  2. On individual blank cards, write the name of each object (in lowercase cursive) in random order. 
  3. Ask the child to sound the symbols out and match it with the object, showing the child that the object matches with the word you have written. This allows the child to understand how the spoken and written language are connected. 
  4. Encourage the child to work alone afterwards and that there are prepared labels available if they need so. The prepared labels (preferably handwritten) can be matched with the objects or pictures.

2. Using Phonetic Objects/Picture Cards of Words with Phonograms

When the child can read with ease from the first object box, a second box which contains objects or pictures whose names are spelled with one phonogram (one key sound with two letters) can be introduced.

A phonogram is a combination of 2 or 3 letters which sounds different from the individual phonetic sounds when together.

For further exercise in mechanical reading, the child is given Phonetic Reading Cards which contain words colored to match the movable alphabet. The child is asked to read each of the words and to use the words in sentences, one by one.

If the child is having difficulties, the adult can use the word in a sentence first and the child can repeat. This exercise helps the child to read the word and form words with sounds together in his mind.

Check out this phonetic reading progression of picture cards I made:

phonetic picture cards, montessori language material, mindsprout

I created a 9-level reading program materials to aid in phonetic reading and writing. Each level includes picture cards with word labels which you can also print at the back (in print or cursive). You can check out the materials here

phonetic reading, object box, montessori language material

Read next: Stage 5 — Activity Words

Thank you for reading up to this point!

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